How surprised were you to get the first wild card pick?
I have low self-esteem as a writer. I'm exceptionally neurotic. I assume no one is reading my stuff. So, I was shocked.
What do the four women in your life think of you trying to become America's Next Author?
I'm very fortunate to have a wife and 3 daughters, aged 16, 9, and 8, who cheer me on and support my compulsion. They were the ones who discovered the contest and encouraged me to edit and submit Italian Radio.
How do you find time to yourself to write?
I write whenever I can. I write in bed. I write while my kids do homework. I write at work during breaks. I write while I wait in line to pick up my children from school or cheerleading practice. I just find the time. Yes, I've written in the fast food drive thru line.
What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in regards to writing?
Finding the confidence to put my stuff out there and accept constructive criticism have been the two major challenges.
What is the best writing advice you've ever heard?
"Keep writing" were two words spoken to me by a famous musician who I'm friends with that I'll not name. He told me the only way to be better is to never stop.
Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors?
I pray at writing altars of Chuck Palahnuik, Nick Hornby, and Johnathon Franzen.
How do you deal with writing criticism?
I worked in the media as a radio and television reporter for six years. Also, I've been divorced and now I'm married with 3 daughters. I get criticized a lot. If it's constructive I accept it, use it to get better, take anxiety pills and drink myself to sleep. If it's not constructive, I just take anxiety pills and drink myself to sleep.
You have been very active on Twitter. Does social media ever interfere with your writing?
No. I bristle at the snobbery of some writers who say social media is hurtful to the creative process. It's free marketing and it's writing on a smaller scale.
A lot of people have pointed out the fact that your story was inspired by a recent headline. How did the Amanda Knox case inspire your work, if at all?
I was fascinated by the story because I have a teenage daughter who could have easily been Amanda Knox. I used her story as a template to tell another story. The middle-aged reporter, Breann Lucos, is the real protagonist. My short story is a small part of a larger piece that tells something grander.
If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be?
Immortality. I want to see the world further evolved than it is now, unless these damn Mayans are right.